This modern anime, man

Ok guys, an NYAF report will come soon, with podcasts coming in like… probably a month or so, but for now I need to talk about something of an issue that’s often brought up in my neck of the internet, and was brought up while I was behind the Hen Da Ne table at NYAF, so it’s fresh in my mind.

That issue being, what’s with these fuckin’ moe shows that have NO STORY AT ALL, MAN. WHAT’S WITH THIS SHALLOW MODERN ANIME?!

When people talk about how much they fucking hate shows like Lucky Star, K-ON! or whatever, their first criticism is that these shows have no story. I don’t honestly think story is a requirement for most entertainment media. While story driven things are great, there’s nothing wrong with a show that relies solely on its characters.

The next thing that people fire at me–and this is specifically aimed at K-ON!, since it’s the show of the hour–is that THIS SHIT ISN’T FUNNY. And you know, in all honesty, I’m not too crazy about K-ON! I too don’t think it’s very funny. Actually, when I was flipping through the original manga back in Japan, it seemed the joke delivery in there was funnier than it was in the anime. I do, however, feel it is a good show. It’s really just about some girls hanging out and living life, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can feel free to not like it, but don’t say that it’s bad because it’s doing exactly what it’s setting out to do.

The problem here is that people can’t really differentiate between their own tastes and what a show sets out to do. I have the same problem. But then again, there’s also people who just don’t approve of what a show sets out to do from the get go, but those people are probably just stuck in a time before 1989, so they’re impossible to help.

After all this, the finishing blow goes something like, “these moe shows are condemning otaku to a fake reality from which they are unable to escape, making them unable to function in the real world.” This is an awful, sweeping generalization. Then again, I can’t quite say my rebuttal to this is entirely in the right considering it’s based off of limited experience, but this experience is certainly more thorough than that of the people who haven’t even been to Japan to meet these otaku they just love to badmouth.

The stereotypical otaku still exists in Japan. You see them around, especially at events. I’ve spoken to some of them. They’re not bad guys, but they are pretty easy to look down upon. However, what you find to be more common these days is an otaku who is–quite honestly–kind of like these Yappies Matt Alt has been talking about lately. I mean, they’re not crazy and don’t carry around anime log books and shit, but if you were to walk into my manga club at Jouchi University, you’d be surprised at how fucking hip these people look. Part of it is because in Japan–generally–young people just tend to dress up nicer than American young people. This is also because as the years have gone by, being an otaku has slowly worked its way into the mainstream. It’s still niche as fuck, but I don’t think fandom today takes as much pride in putting on the wife-beater and headband just to be a cultural outlaw.

That’s not to say that these guys don’t enjoy indulging in these “moe anime” (I hate saying that by the way, since “moe” isn’t a genre) and some of these cool dudes even snuggle up with their dakimakura–just like me! Remember this guy? Dude fucking loves dakimakura, figures and tapestries. However, in addition to writing about that stuff on his mixi, he also talks about shopping at high-end clothing stores, and let me tell you–the dude was sharply dressed whenever I saw him. In addition to that, he was very sociable with everyone and you probably wouldn’t even be able to tell he was an otaku unless he told you he bought that Fate dakimakura because he loves Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha so fucking much.

Most of the fans I met in Japan just–on the whole–just seemed a lot more socially adept than most American fandom. You know Shima Shima? Guy who draws lots of Cardcaptor Sakura doujinshi? The dude is chill as fuck. I’d go out for Hoppy with him. At this point, I think being an otaku has simply evolved into a lifestyle, and the requirement to be weird about it is slowly fading away. And these guys know how to poke fun at themselves, too. It’s not as if they’re shutting themselves in a fantasy world. They’re just living a different kind of lifestyle from most other people, and are cool about it.

So basically, all y’all are wrong.

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34 Responses to This modern anime, man

  1. moritheil says:

    I’ve noticed this with several anime and manga – often the manga comedic timing is far better than the anime.

  2.  kransom says:

    dude, did you see those guys at the AKB48 line? just sayin’.

  3. wah says:

    Man, I didn’t say those guys don’t exist. I’m just saying the Western image of our Japanese brothers is unbalanced as fuck.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Oh, so another “Glorious nippon is superior to America” post? How predictable.

    But it has other reasonable content, so…

  5. I’ve always found the whole “the show does what it sets out to do” to be a highly dubious one since that logic dictates that no show can be judged bad because all shows do what it sets out to do. The recourse then, I think, is for the viewer to just note that their tastes did not align to the show’s presentation since that’s about the only claim one can make with any degree of certainty.

  6. wah says:

    Well shows can do what they set out to do badly. I just left that out because it’s blazingly obvious.

    >>Anonymous
    This is more to balance out a generalization that’s too wide spread. It’s true to some extent, but I just wanna put out there that not all otaku are crazy. Well, at the very least they don’t /look/ crazy.

  7. chrisl says:

    ah! the sweet world of shows about nothing!
    I have been a fan of this kind of show since about 10 years ago. my first show of this kind wasn’t an anime, it was the sitcom seinfeld, a fantastic show that has no real plot, it completely blow my mind away (well, it was my first show of this kind and the possibilities of other shows with no plot excited me)
    I think the first anime I saw with no plot was azumanga daioh.
    while I can enjoy the classic romantic comedy style (which is what most animes are anyway) I really prefer when they focus on other things, other subjects… or when they just don’t focus on anything at all.
    do we really need 15 new animes per season about a girl who is in love with her childhood friend, who is in love with the her best friend and blah blah comedy blah blah blah crying blah blah they finally end up in love with someone else or they give an open end when they don’t date, they just imply they maybe are gonna date in the future, or more dramatic, they decided to get marry

  8. BlueGenome says:

    Well put.

    @Anon: I’m not really seeing any “Glorious nippon is superior to America” sentiment in this post; wah is just pointing out some discrepancies between the stereotypical, poorly-dressed loner who a lot of people think of when they read “otaku” and the actual people who identify with that term.

    Of course, the crazy ones are those you hear about anyway.

  9. loldebi says:

    Finally somebody stated how it really is.

    Animes aren’t all about story. Some focus on the character (/development), maybe even just animation quality, (maybe) Music/Soundtrack, -if it’s really necessary- on fanservice, etc. Same goes to Mangas and/or Eroges.
    Some shows require to know at least a bit about Japans culture or references to other series, so I can’t really understand when people say “SZS isn’t interesting, it has no story” or “SZS is stupid, I don’t get it”. SZS mostly refers to things happening in society and if you know what the plot actually would be about, you’d also get WHY they mention such stuff. Whatever, this now was more about an earlier Blog from Wah, but it’s somewhat related with the “Shows like K-On! are stupid, they’ve got no story” thing above imo.
    The most important thing still is, DON’T try to compare two or more series with each other. They may look the same, share a similar plot or whatsoever, but they AREN’T. Though having the feeling “I’m getting some [insert Anime name here]-Vibes” isn’t the same as comparing.

    I always had in mind that, already by being an ‘otaku’, the lifestyle of someone is different. But this has nothing to do with “being unsociable”, “perverted”, a shut-in or whatever many people say to judge them. The thing which differs them from the awfully normal people is mostly their point of views, the handling with society or whatsoever. It’s hard to say, hmhm.

    I don’t think of such people as “bad” or anything else, I’d rather say that I’d get on well with them. At least with some.

    I think I stated the obvious again, so it’s better I stop here. It’s still my point of view :>

    “So basically, all y’all are wrong.”
    Agreed.

  10. fakeakagi says:

    >>loldebi
    But SZS is stupid. It takes a single event occurring in society out of context, carries it to its most extreme conclusion and tries to pass it off as humor. Since when did hyperbole ever become a valid social commentary? Not to mention that it is an extremely Japan-centric show representing views that are only valid if taken from a Japanese perspective, and almost borders on nationalism when dealing with certain topics. Its not dark humor, its not witty commentary. Its just plain whining.

    And of course in his latest post, wah goes all out to defend his beloved nippon and his HARDCORE OTAKU PRIDE

    Typical, wah. Try harder next time.

  11. VZ says:

    wah, you’re smarter than 99% of anime fans out there.

    I HATE it when people think anime is made for them and when it isn’t, it’s considered bad.

    Oh and about otaku being ronery, I’d rather be that and happy then tied to someone who won’t let me be the way I am.

  12. 2DT says:

    I don’t believe that the people you’re arguing against really exist in the way you describe them. But if they do, I’d love to see some links. I haven’t done enough staring aghast at my screen today as it is.

  13. Alex Leavitt says:

    “These moe shows are condemning otaku to a fake reality from which they are unable to escape, making them unable to function in the real world.”

    Where’d the quote come from?

    I also think it’s annoying that people are conflating “moé” with “character-driven plot.” But I think it all boils down to the fact that these shows originated from 4-panel comics, which are obviously meant not to have any sort of sweeping, complex storyline — so what do people really expect from the adaptation?

    Lastly, the worst reverse culture shock I experienced was probably on the level of fashion. Returning to Boston and an 18,000-student campus, the sweats and pajama pants really threw me for a loop. In Kyoto, people tried to look nice.

  14. VZ says:

    I lol when people say “this show slice of life show is boring.” A SOL show is meant to be relaxing.

  15. omo says:

    >> Since when did hyperbole ever become a valid social commentary?

    LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL I guess you never read the newspaper.

  16. rikchik says:

    Reminds me of how tech-oriented people have split out into geeks, who are knowledgeable technically, and nerds, who are that AND socially inept. Maybe we need two different terms for otaku-geeks and otaku-nerds?

  17. loldebi says:

    >> fakeakagi
    “Not to mention that it is an extremely Japan-centric show representing views that are only valid if taken from a Japanese perspective […]”

    There are shows which were intended for the national audience only, and with those I mean Japan. SZS seems to be one of these shows, so why ranting about it? It’s not like Japan’s totally different from other states, the show definitely stated situations that happened at least once to us.

    Anyway, I’d rather allocate the keyword “Irony” to SZS instead of “Dark humour”.

    /end opinion

  18. wah says:

    >>fakeakagi
    It’s so cool how people get mad at Japan because they don’t understand it. Do you revel in your ignorance as a hobby?

    >>2DT
    Ever hang around older, more jaded fans?

    >>Alex Leavitt
    I’m paraphrasing many different things I’ve heard.

    >>rikchik
    The problem there is that in Japan, an otaku is an otaku is an otaku. They don’t really have that nerd/geek differentiation as far as I know. Unless you wanted to use Yappie…

  19. Robert Kelly says:

    Frankly, this just makes me wonder if “normal” Japanese people see all Western anime fans as the obnoxious, juvenile, “Free Hugs” sign carrying, ninja cosplaying Narutards that we all come to despise…

  20. loldebi says:

    >> Robert Kelly
    Maybe. If they really do, they’ll also know that there exist exceptions, imo.

  21. Annubis says:

    K-ON was OK. My main problem is that like many other shows, it’s a clone of lucky star. That doesn’t make it bad… but there’s a limit on how many clones I can take on of a single concept.

    It’s like that show they made about a butler thing near Hayate season 2. Worst is, that was that poorly done too.

    Right now the trend seems to be about TERRORISM and the MIDDLE EAST *gasp*
    Name me 5 shows using those… it’s not even hard.

  22. digitalboy says:

    >>like many other shows, it’s a clone of lucky star.

    this made me snicker. I can’t name ONE show that is a ‘clone of lucy star’.

  23. schneider says:

    >>And these guys know how to poke fun at themselves, too.

    This is very true. Too bad people who aren’t in the know take it too seriously.

    Also, I don’t get the K-ON hate. It isn’t even THAT offensive in terms of moe; it’s more like moe haters need something to bitch on every season.

  24. jpmeyer says:

    >> Since when did hyperbole ever become a valid social commentary?

    >>>>LOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOLOL I guess you never read the newspaper.

    Since when were newspapers valid social commentary? LOLOLOLOLOLOL

  25. Kurogane says:

    I really quite agree with this post.

    Just sayin’. I think i’ll book mark this and use it as material for monthly column in a local magazine.

  26. Anonymous says:

    Actually I don’t really think Lucky Star and K-ON! (the TV shows, specifically, not the comics) are all that similar to each other, except superficially.

    At its core, Lucky Star is still a comedy. It’s comparable to Azumanga or even Dilbert. But K-ON! really is a pure moe show. In K-On!, humor is secondary to making you just want to hug these characters to bits. If you don’t feel the hug reflex while watching K-ON!, you probably aren’t going to like it all that much, except perhaps to appreciate the fancily animated parts.

  27. Rob says:

    K-On was laugh out loud funny to me once. When Ritsu took the plastic off Yui’s brand new guitar.

  28. Yoneda says:

    >>fakeakagi
    >lmost borders on nationalism when dealing with certain topics

    Which season?
    Sounds cool, I love Japanese nationalism!

  29. DrmChsr0 says:

    K-ON is not Aria/Azumanga Daioh/Hidamari Sketch.

    I didn’t want to have sex with any of the girls in the latter show. I wanted to shoot jizz in Mio’s face.

    ‘Nuff said.

  30. Keith says:

    Look, the problem here isn’t that the people putting moe down aren’t considering other peoples’ point of view. I mean, maybe they are. It’s that because moe sells so much there is MOE EVERYWHERE. Moe may or may not be killing anime at the present.

    Since the economy is so bad, many animation studios are just making moe shows to play it safe because it’ll make them money easy. And this leads to more CREATIVE shows not getting the attention they need. It’s started this new anime season already, with shows like Aoi Bungaku probably not getting a subgroup, but some shit moe show getting 10 different groups for it.

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